Sweet 16

This past weekend, DCI closed the door on its 2014 campaign, with Blue Devils notching championship #16 with their Felliniesque program. While I wasn't there finals night, I did make the trip up for championship weekend, opting instead to attend Friday's semifinals.

The trip was a great opportunity to get up to Indianapolis for the first time since my brother in law has lived there. A stop in Chillicothe, OH on the way up got us another national park stamp at Hopewell Culture National Historical Park before continuing on to Indianapolis. Thursday took us down to Holiday World in Santa Claus, IN with my brother in law, his girlfriend, and another friend of theirs. It was awesome.

We were met by rain on Friday as we headed out towards the stadium. This trip was actually the first use of my new gas grill; I'm typically a charcoal griller, but I've often longed for the easy-on, easy-off of a gas grill in the tailgate lot. After a little figuring out of the new toy, we were, quite literally, cooking with gas.

I was pleased to spend a bit of time with a few fellow UMBC Down and Dirty Dawg Band alumni. Matt and Paul have made the trip to Championships the past few years, and I reached out to them both once I knew we'd be headed to Indianapolis. Paul and I overlapped a few years in the band; Matt and I were never in band together, though he and Paul overlapped. Between the three of us, we span nearly the entire history of the band; I joined in its second year of existence, and Matt's the current director. Imagine that - three alumni of a school with no marching band meeting up at the championships for Marching Music's Major League.

Allow me to also draw attention to my shirt: Baltimore Colts Marching Band: Established 1947. While my sister in law did march with the Colts Band, this is a fauxback. I made it before the trip to Finals in 2008, which was slated to have been the first event in Lucas Oil Stadium before a delay in construction moved the event to Memorial Stadium at Indiana University. Despite traveling to Indy with three different corps shirts, I had to remind the city and stadium of their ill-gotten goods.

On with the show! It was only a week or two before the trip that I realized that with the new championship format, semifinals now featured 25 corps instead of the 17 I was used to. With all due respect to the Open Class and the bottom of the World Class corps, I didn't exactly hurry in from the tailgate lot. In fact, by the time my wife and I arrived in the stadium, we decided to peruse the souvies at a leisurely pace before the corps broke for the first intermission; we ended up with 17 corps after all. We took in the veritable smorgasbord of merch, copping a few free stickers and purchasing a few more things. A Baltimore native now living in Utah strikes up a conversation with me over the shirt (leading with "What do you know about the Baltimore Colts?!")

This year and last, circumstances have only afforded me one DCI show, which is unfortunate. Still, I'm pleased that my one this year was semifinals. While I love the Tour of Champions corps, the fact that the Charlotte's NightBEAT is a TOC show means I've missed some of what I deem the "mid majors" I enjoy seeing. It was a pleasure this year to catch Spirit of Atlanta, who in my opinion owned what Honda Battle of the Bands aficionados term the "wake up spot", and their south-facing show Magnolia. The recent Open Class callup Oregon Crusaders get a bit of 410 respect from me for putting a Raven on the Colts' home field. And for myself, as a self-described traditionalist who doesn't have deep enough corps roots to be one, the Troopers are always a pleasure, even though I felt teased by how little Battle Hymn of the Republic was in their show. And the Crossmen, who like myself once called Delaware home, have returned to the red in their uniforms in a big way. I don't need a reminder that there's excellence to be had throughout, but it sure is fulfilling to experience it.

During the second INT, I got to meet Ann, who I had connected with some time ago on Twitter, following her journeys to a jealousy-inducing number of midwestern drum corps shows. I also met Mac, who is hustling hard to put out Scouts Honor: Inside a Marching Brotherhood, a drum corps documentary which follows members of the Madison Scouts.

If I had one complaint, it was the same ludditical belief that I spoke about in Halftime. Some of the uses of electronics, especially narration, were just too antithetical to enjoying the show. In an enclosed stadium where I was closer to the retractable roof than the playing surface, so much of the voice was garbled, which committed two sins: The first was a garbled mess detracting from the music; the second was that when you use narration to drive the show, the show loses everything when the narration is lost. Still, there were enjoyable shows throughout, and the top of the order was no exception.

While I didn't attend finals night, the outcome - a 16th Blue Devils victory - was to be expected. I've drawn the New York Yankees comparison, but don't share quite the same disdain. Instead, perhaps the Blue Devils are a bit more like the San Antonio Spurs - so often, they're not my cup of tea, but their excellence cannot be denied.

The sports and marching/athletic music fun in Indianapolis didn't end on Friday night; stay tuned for the rest shortly!